Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press brief in Jerusalem on Nov. 21, 2012. Netanyahu announced the end of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday evening, as a ceasefire comes into effect at 21:00 local time (1900 GMT). (Xinhua/Yin Dongxun)
JERUSALEM/GAZA/CAIRO, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have reached a cease- fire agreement to end eight days of fighting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Wednesday afternoon.
The truce, brokered by Egypt, takes effect at 09:00 p.m. Gaza time (19:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
Amr announced the cease-fire at a joint press conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after their meeting. Praising the efforts of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to promote peace in the region, Clinton said "Washington welcomes the cease-fire agreement" and the stopping of violence.
Israeli Prime Minister's Office confirmed on Wednesday evening that a cease-fire agreement has been reached. Israeli Prime Minister's chambers said that by accepting the truce offer, Israel is "giving a chance to stabilize the region before there is a need to execute excessive force."
An hour after the announcement of truce in Cairo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with his Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, held a press brief to announce the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.
"At this time, the right thing for Israel to do is to reach a continuing cease-fire. As prime minister, it is demanded from me to take right steps for the state of Israel," Netanyahu said.
"We need to navigate this ship of a state in stormy waters with responsibility and wisdom, that's how a responsible government acts. We've executed a military action but also stayed open for a diplomatic solution," the Israeli prime minister said.
Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Barack Obama for supporting Israel's right to defend itself and said that the two have agreed to work together in the region against terrorism.
"I agreed with Obama that we should give the Egyptian truce a chance and let Israeli citizens get back to their normal lives. We both agreed to work against weapons smuggling from Iran," Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu also thanked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her efforts in the truce negotiations, as well as Egyptian officials for mediating the agreement.
After 09:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, announced that the cease-fire agreement has become valid in the Gaza Strip. As the truce came into effect at 09:00 p.m, the last Israeli airstrike and the last rocket fired by the Hamas armed wing both occurred at around 08:55 p.m. Gaza time.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday night welcomed the cease-fire agreement. Abbas said in an official statement published by the official news agency Wafa that he supports the agreement "to stop the bloodshed of our people and to put an end to the continuation of the Israeli aggression on Gaza."
"The Palestinian (National) Authority believes that any forthcoming steps of the cease-fire won't harm the interests of our people and the geographic unity between the Gaza Strip and West Bank," the statement said.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, said in a televised speech on Wednesday night that the cease-fire was "an end to the Israeli aggression and a victory for the Palestinian resistance."
Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took to the streets on Wednesday evening to celebrate the truce. With cars honking and guns firing celebratory shots into the air, the Gazans marched to Shiffa Hospital to visit the wounded.
"We congratulate our people and our resistance for reaching the cease-fire agreement that put an end to the Israeli aggression," said Ahmed Bahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, in a press statement emailed to reporters.
However, many people are still anxiously watching the fragile situation in the region. For example, two rockets were fired from southern Lebanon towards the Israeli border on Wednesday evening, with one fell short in the Lebanese territories. The incident comes two days after two rockets were found in southern Lebanon which were ready to be fired against Israel.
In a bid to end the escalating deadly conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, Secretary General of the United NationsBan Ki-moon arrived in Egypt on Monday to discuss the latest developments with senior Egyptian officials, then left for Israel and Ramallah on Tuesday, and went back to Cairo on Wednesday afternoon.
Ban praised on Wednesday the efforts of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in mediating the cease-fire agreement. "I support Morsi's efforts in the cease-fire agreement," he said, adding that he had discussed with Morsi the bus explosion in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, expressing his condemnation for such attacks against civilians.
"The military ways will necessarily lead to more misery, so we urge the need for an immediate fire-ceasing," Ban said.
Ban stressed the necessity of delivering humanitarian aids to Gaza, adding that the United Nations will do its best in this regard.
Both Israeli and Palestinian news outlets reported upon the main issues of the cease-fire agreement, among which are the ending of all hostilities by both sides.
On the Israeli side, Israel reportedly agreed to stop its military actions on air, land and sea, including targeted killings.
The Palestinians, on their part, will stop launching missiles towards Israeli territory as well as attacks against soldiers across the border.
Both sides have also reported that Israel will let people and goods pass more freely at the passages on the Gaza Strip border. The directives about the blockade on the Gaza Strip will be determined in the upcoming days, according to the reports.
As for the implementation part, the agreement stated that Egypt shall obtain guarantees from all parties to ensure their commitment, adding that if any of the parties has notifications, Egypt as the sponsor of the understandings shall be noted to follow up.
During the eight days of Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, about 1,500 missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, 420 of which intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missiles batteries.
The rockets were launched towards southern communities, as well as the central city of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other areas that have not been as of yet in the line of fire during the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli Air Force struck around 1,500 targets in the Gaza Strip, including chief militants (starting with the chief of Hamas ' military wing, Ahmed Jabri), missiles arsenals, smuggling tunnels and lunch pads.
However, civilians were also hurt during the attacks. The Palestinians put the death toll at 158, with 1200 wounded, among whom dozens of children.
In Israel, five Israelis lost their lives, including four civilians and one soldier. Several soldiers suffered mediocre or serious wounds from direct rocket hits near the Gaza Border.
For the first time in a decade, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, injuring at least 13 people. Five people were still at hospital as of Wednesday evening, two suffer mediocre injuries and two light injuries.
The police have arrested one suspect they believe is connected to the incident and are continuing their inspection in the premises.
The improvised small bomb was thrown apparently through the back door of the bus from the street. The bombing took place on a busy boulevard, Shaul Hamelech, not far from the Defense Ministry headquarters and a major shopping center as well as office complex.
No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident. However, according to several reports, the Hamas TV channel said a suicide bombing might occur within Israeli territory on Wednesday.
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday welcomed a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, and called on the relevant parties "to act seriously" and "in good faith" in order to bring a "sustainable and durable" peace in the Middle East.
"The members of the Security Council welcomed the ceasefire agreement reached in relation to the Gaza Strip in order to bring about a sustainable and durable cessation of hostilities that have been affecting the Gaza Strip and Israel," said a statement read to the press by Hardeep Singh Puri, the Indian UN ambassador who holds the rotating council presidency for November. Full story